Emerging Prairie is proud to bring readers yet another Startup Community Pillar – and this time we reached out to give recognition to the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Often acting as an intermediary for startups and entrepreneur networking, the individuals working within the government entity are poised to assist businesses in many different ways. Emerging Prairie met with Jared Stober, Entrepreneurship Program Manager at the Department of Commerce, to learn a little bit more about his coworkers and their overall goals for North Dakota.

On a broad level, the North Dakota Department of Commerce shines its spotlight on expanding the wealth in the state. This brief statement means the entity endeavors to support all regional business and job creators while also supplementing the market with entrepreneurship programs aimed at producing a diversified economy. Through this multifaceted approach, the Department of Commerce provides tangible impact for North Dakota businesses.

Innovate NDSpecifically, Jared and his coworkers implement a number of grant, research, and business development programs for budding organizations attempting to become legitimate contributors to the North Dakota economy. Innovate ND allows for entrepreneurs to gain access to resources and a business network while receiving grant money to further their ideas. The passing of every level of the program means adding $17,500 in seed money for the new business. With a relatively small enrollment fee, startup founders can reap the many benefits of a state government that truly cares about the development of local businesses. Apart from the monetary perks, entrepreneurs learn how to develop business plans, create product prototypes, and market their businesses through boot camp educational programs taught by Jeff Stamp, the entrepreneurial legend who invented Baked Lay’s Chips, among many other creations.

The Department of Commerce also teams with area universities via Research ND. The program is designed to promote the commercialization of products that require extensive university research in order to create. Jolynne Tschetter and others at the Department of Commerce work with the college representatives to break through funding and administrative barriers for companies to bring good ideas into the public light. By acting as an intermediary and providing the research funding for companies interested in collegiate partnerships, North Dakota’s Department of Commerce is improving access to information on multiple levels.

Jared stresses that agricultural niche dwellers should also be keen to note the Agricultural Products Utilization Committee’s (APUC) role in North Dakota. The committee serves to specifically promote those businesses involved with agricultural products in the state through a variety of grant programs. With such a large segment of the economy focused on agriculture, it is necessary to reach out to those interested in improving processes with more efficient products and machines.

ND Dept of CommerceApart from more formal programs and gatherings, there are also many events aimed at promoting entrepreneurship. Coming up in late May, the Department of Commerce will be hosting an Innovate ND Idea & Venture Competition in which $21,000 in prizes have the potential to be awarded. The May 30 event welcomes startup founders from a wide range of the business development spectrum: from those with mere ideas to those with fleshed-out, proven concepts.

When it comes down to simple statements, though, Jared ardently believes the role of the North Dakota Department of Commerce is to simply serve as a connector of groups and individuals who want to create business opportunities. The entity builds relationships in entrepreneurial centers like Fargo, Dickenson, Grand Forks, Minot, and Bismarck while directing intrigued entrepreneurs with helpful organizations in those respective regions. Jared and everyone else understand that starting a business can be a very lonely process. The North Dakota Department of Commerce is there to help with connections and support so new businesses can grow.

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Matt Gantz